Britannia Antiqua Illustrata


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SAMMES, Aylett. Britannia Antiqua Illustrata, or the Antiquities of Ancient Britain, Derived from the Phoenicians… London: Thomas Roycroft, 1676. Folio (9 by 14-1/2 inches), contemporary full paneled calf rebacked, raised bands, burgundy morocco spine label; pp. (10), 582, (5).

First edition, with double-page engraved "Map of Europe" and 24 full-page and in-text engravings, which include depictions of historical figures, battles, and noble seals. A handsome and impressive folio volume.

"In 1676 Sammes published, at his own expense, Britannia antiqua illustrata, or, The antiquities of ancient Britain, derived from the Phoenicians. The volume was licensed by Roger L'Estrange in March 1675, printed by Thomas Roycroft, and dedicated to Heneage Finch, the lord chancellor, who was also of the Inner Temple. Sammes' book, which traces British history from earliest times to the Saxons of the eighth century, is one of the odder antiquarian productions of the 17th century, for it maintains that Britain was originally settled by the Phoenicians, who established a flourishing culture there: 'Not only the name of Britain itself, but of most places therein of ancient denomination are purely derived from the Phoenician Tongue, and … the Language itself for the most part, as well as the Customs, Religions, Idols, Offices, Dignities of the Ancient Britains are all clearly Phoenician, as likewise their instruments of war.' Much of the evidence Sammes offers is philological, and the book is full of misleading etymologies… His opinions are initially derived from his reading of Strabo's Geography, and they echo the views of the Tudor historian John Twyne that were published in De rebus Albionicis (1590). The largest influence on the book was the work of the French scholar Samuel Bochart, whose Geographia sacra (1646) gave an extravagant account of the voyages and colonies of the Phoenicians" (ODNB).
While the title page states "The First Volume," this volume was the only one published. Wing S535. Lowndes, 2182. Early owner ink signatures on title page; bookplate.

Owner signatures excised from title page, affecting title letterpress; paper repair to outer margin of title page. Infrequent marginal spotting; expert restoration to calf extremities. A very good copy of this handsome folio.

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